Fake military man in love scam - again

Last updated 05:00 30/06/2014

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An internet love scam targeting lonely women has hijacked the identity of a former top New Zealand military official - again.

The New Zealand Defence Force is investigating alongside Australian authorities after a German woman raised the alarm on the scam that attempts to dupe women into handing over cash to fraudsters hiding behind the names and photographs of top military staff.

A fraudulent page was set up in the name of the incoming chief of the Australian Defence Force, Mark Binskin.

An account purporting to belong to former defence chief Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones was also set up by impersonators - the second time it has happened, the defence force has confirmed.

A defence force spokeswoman said a fraudulent account claiming to belong to Jones was reported to police in 2012.

"This case in 2014 appears to be a new impersonation page and the NZDF will now take similar action," she said.

In one such profile page, the user, "Rhys Jones" - who joined the social media site in November 2012 - listed the "Ministary of Defence" (sic) as his occupation and listed American rock group Linkin Park as among his interests.

Jones, alongside Australia's Air Marshal Binskin, was among several high-profile international figures whose identities have been used to create the fraudulent Facebook accounts.

Facebook has suspended several other profiles, including pages portraying US and European military commanders and a fake profile of American astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Anna Linden, 54, a waitress in Aachen, west Germany, said she received a Facebook message from a man claiming to be Binskin after accepting his friend request at the end of May - less than two months after he was named Australia's new chief of defence.

Linden received messages claiming Binskin was serving in Kabul in Afghanistan, but he would soon retire and was looking for a partner as he had been single for eight years. The real Mark Binskin is married.

The messages, written in German, quickly escalated to declarations from the impersonator that "I really love you" and "I promise you my life".

Then Linden received a message that Binskin was stuck in London without a valid travel visa and if she would pay €300 (NZ$582) for a plane ticket to Spain he would join her on a holiday and repay her by selling 5kg of gold that he had in his possession.

"You will never regret it" the message said.

Instead, Linden decided to report the imposter as she had been duped once before by a fake Facebook romance last year that tricked her into paying €8000 (NZ$15,524).

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"I knew he would just keep asking for more money."

She was aware of other women in Germany and two in other countries who have been approached by the Binskin impersonator.

An Australian Defence spokeswoman said the department had not been aware that the nation's top military brass was being used to target lonely hearts but an investigation had been launched. 

- The Dominion Post

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